- Flooded Properties - Health Concerns
Health Concerns Following Flooding and Sewage Backups
What Health Precautions can I take during the Cleanup?
- Wear gloves when in direct contact with contaminated articles
- Wash your hands frequently, and after you remove gloves
- Consider wearing a mask and boots for additional protection
- Change your clothes and shower after working in a contaminated area
- Avoid spreading dirt from your boots through other parts of your house
How can I keep my Children from getting Sick?
- Keep children away from all sewage-contaminated areas
- Don't let children play in or near ponds of sewage or in areas that have been recently flooded
- Wash your child's hands frequently especially before a meal
- Throw away any soft toys like stuffed animals that may be contaminated with sewage
- Disinfect hard-surfaced toys that may be contaminated, using 1 in 100 solution of bleach (10 ml per litre of water)
Are there any Special Concerns if I'm Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
- We suggest that you see if someone else can do the cleanup. If you do participate, avoid heavy lifting if you are pregnant. Be very careful about handwashing especially before handling the baby or breastfeeding. Make sure that dirty clothes don't come into contact with your baby. There is no concern about infection being spread through the breast milk.
Can Contact with Sewage Make Me Sick?
- Sewage may contain germs that can make you sick. These could be viruses, bacteria or parasites. It is important to wash your hands after contact with sewage. It is not spread through the air.
What Symptoms Should I Watch For?
- The most likely symptoms to develop are: diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and headache.
What Should I Do if I get Sick?
- Call your doctor if the symptoms are severe. In addition, for children, call your doctor quickly if you are concerned or if vomiting continues more than 12 hours (6 hours for infants). Signs of dehydration in children include sunken eyes, loose skin, abnormal drowsiness and passing very small amounts of urine. To avoid passing on your illness to others in your family, wash your hands very carefully after you use the toilet. Do not prepare any food for anyone while you are sick.
What About Mould?
- If moisture persists, mould can start to develop after a few days. Most types of mould are not hazardous to your health. Some moulds can cause or worsen conditions like asthma, hay fever or other allergies. The most common symptoms would be cough, stuffy nose, eye irritation or flare-up of asthma. Some people are quite sensitive to moulds. Generally though, it takes long and heavy exposure to get sick from mould. If you notice mould developing while you are waiting for your cleanup to be finished, let your Restoration Company and insurance adjuster know. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has produced a guide for prevention and clean-up called Fighting Mould - The Homeowner's Guide.
For more information, contact the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit at 613-345-5685 or check the Canada Mortgage and House Corporation website.
Adapted for use from the Peterborough County-City Health Unit.